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Car lover spends time perfecting his ‘ride’

After spending many late nights in the garage holding a light so his father could see what he was doing as he tinkered with cars, John Light slowly caught the fever.
The Fall Branch resident purchased his first mustang when he was 14 years old. He worked on a farm for a year to pay for the $800 car.
“At 16 years old, I was driving it to high school,” Light said.
Before building cars became a hobby, he attended Northeast State and in 1988 earned his automotive certificate, which kicked off his profession as an auto technician.
He worked for Buick in Kingsport for a while before going to work at Tennessee Motor Co. in Johnson City. Light later became Ford certified and ASE master certified.
From there, Light worked at Eastman Chemical Co. for 17 and a half years before deciding to make a career change. He said his two sons, Josh and Jarred, were grown up, so it was time to do what he had always wanted to do.
“When I left Eastman, I put myself through the police academy in Greeneville,” Light said.
He was a reserve officer for two years before he became a deputy sheriff for Washington County. He has been a patrol officer full-time for almost six years.
“It is a gratifying job,” Light said. “I look at it as a hobby. I don’t dread going to work every morning. I’m very glad I made the change.”
Along with the career change, Light also recently returned to restoring cars. His two latest include a 1988 Ford Mustang and a 1979 Chevy Camaro for his wife, Rhonda.
“It’s a good stress reliever. I enjoy doing it,” Light said. “Life is short. You need to enjoy something.”
Light purchased the Mustang from North Carolina in 2006 off of eBay. He said he was shopping around for a late model Mustang that he could race.
“I went to eBay and found that one and purchased it and he delivered it. I tore it completely apart, leaving just the shell behind,” Light said
The car racing bug bit Light when he was a junior in high school after a friend of his took him to a drag strip one Sunday.
“I was hooked,” he said.
Light spent a lot of time at the Cherokee Drag Way in Rogersville from 1990 to 1998 racing cars. Now he tries to race at least six times a year, which mostly takes place at Bristol Dragway.
“It’s a big stress reliever,” he said of racing.
When all you can see is the sky upon leaving the start line, as the car is speeding down the track — that, Light said, is pretty awesome.
He enjoys racing, he added, because he likes to see how fast and how consistent he can make his Mustang go.
The car took two years to complete, due to his working on it every day he had off. He built a complete new Boss 347 engine, a competition C4 automatic transmission, a drag race expansion and redid the interior and exterior of the car making it black on black.
“The only thing I didn’t do is spray the paint on the car. I have a good friend that does that,” Light said.
The Mustang, he said, runs at 129 mph in 10.6 seconds for the quarter mile.
The car is street legal, Light said, adding that it makes for a good Sunday driving car.
In 2009, a heated garage was added to the Lights’ property, making it easier to work on the cars.
“This is my man cave,” he said smiling.
Last year, he did not race as much as he wanted because he was building his wife’s Camaro, which is now white with black interior. He spotted the Camaro when he was on duty one day serving papers at a house.
He knew the Camaro was exactly what his wife was looking for.
Light said when he asked the owner about selling his car, he replied laughing, “I just got it two days ago.”
Light left his number with the gentleman and went on his way. A week later, Light got a call asking him how fast he could come pick up the car.
Light said he asked if 20 minutes was okay.
He drove the car home almost two years ago and completely stripped it down to its shell and began working on the Camaro. A new transmission was built for the car and an engine from another car they owned that had low items was also put in the car.
“It is completely restored ground up as well,” Light said. “It’s been a lot of work.”
Rhonda said the car is awesome and she cannot wait to take it out once the finishing touches are done.
The couple, who married in October 2008, exchange friendly banters about their muscle cars. Light is a drag racer and Ford kind of guy, and Rhonda enjoys the circle track and loves GM cars. She said she was a circle track girl in the late 1990s.
The Camaro is not intended to be raced, the Lights added, but will be taken to car shows.